LSU's Tyler Hanover slides safely into third on a steal as Ole Miss third baseman Andrew Mistonea catches the high throw in the second inning of their Southeastern Conference tournament game Thursday in Hoover, Ala. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, May 24, 2012 7:53 PM
HOOVER, Ala. — Practice?
We talking about PRAC-tice here?
Not LSU. Not in Hoover.
“We’d rather play games,” said LSU third baseman Tyler Hanover, who as much as anybody took head coach Paul Mainieri’s threat of finishing the week laboring on the practice field to heart.
Hanover had a career-high four of LSU’s 17 hits and the Tigers gave Ole Miss a typical dose of Kevin Gausman to roll to an 11-2 victory to stay alive in the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday morning.
“I told them it was up to them,” Mainieri said of the options — the long bus ride home and monotonous workouts vs. extending their stay and playing on in the tournament.
“This team likes to play. That was a pretty determined group in our dugout today,” Mainieri said.
LSU struck early with two runs in the first, but it was tight game until the Tigers broke it open with five runs in the eighth inning for a 9-2 lead.
It kept the Tigers (43-15) alive and ready to play another elimination game at 3 p.m. today against Mississippi State, which lost to Kentucky 5-1 later Thursday.
LSU will pitch Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.62) in today’s game, while Ole Miss (35-24) went home eliminated but still expecting to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament next week.
“We didn’t want to go home.” Mainieri said. “We like Hoover.”
Jordy Snikeris came off the bench for a pinch-hit, two-run double in the big eighth inning, then added a two-run home run in the ninth to complete the scoring.
“That’s a pretty good job when you can sit around (on the bench) for seven innings and end up with four RBIs,” Mainieri said of Snikeris.
Hanover got the decisive inning started with his fourth hit of the game, and the Tigers also got an RBI double by Austin Nola and RBI singles by Raph Rhymes and Tyler Moore.
It was probably overkill the way Gausman (10-1) had pitched, scattering seven hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.
“When Kevin gets the ball, you like your chances, we just needed to give him some runs,” said Mainieri, who added that Gausman wasn’t going to pitch the bottom of the eighth even if the Tigers hadn’t padded the 4-2 lead. “He probably could have gone longer.”
Nola had three hits and scored three times for the Tigers, while Moore and Ty Ross each had a pair of RBIs.
Ross, who made his first start at catcher since emergency appendicitis surgery less than two weeks ago, also had a pair of hits.
“I have not had my appendix out.” Mainieri said. “I thought the performance today by Ross was courageous. That’s the only way to describe it.”
“We hung in there early, but there at the end we just kind of ran out of juice,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco. “They got a lot of big hits at the end.
“The game got away from us.”
LSU gave Gausman a 2-0 lead in the first on Moore’s sacrifice fly and RBI single by Ross.
Gausman had all he needed after Ross got an RBI groundout in the third and Grant Dozar got Hanover home on a safety squeeze bunt.
“He’s as good as anybody we’ve seen,” Bianco said of Gausman. “His fastball is just explosive. It’s tough to catch up with, and I thought today his offspeed stuff was terrific. He’s going to pitch in the big leagues, no doubt about it.”